[An encounter with the Queen of Olaza]

[Excerpt from Letter VI, from Mangalor, December 9, 1623:]

[151] This Morning I went to see Olaza, which is about the same distance from Mangalor as Banghel is, but the contrary way towards the South, and stands on the other side of a great River, which was to be pass'd over by boat. The Queen was not here, and seldom is, but keeps her Court commonly in another place more within land; yet I would not omit to see Olaza, the rather because in the Portugal Histories it gives name to that Queen, as being that Land of hers which is nearest and best known to the Portugals [=Portuguese], and perhaps, the richest and fruitfullest which she now enjoys.... The Bazar is indifferent, and besides necessaries for provisions, affords abundance of white and strip'd linen cloth, which is made in Olaza, but coarse, such as the people of that Country use.... 

Olaza is inhabited confusedly, both by Gentiles [=Hindus] who burn themselves, and also by Malabar-Moors [= indigenous Muslims]. About a mile off Southwards, stands the Royal House or Palace amongst the above-said Groves, where the Queen resides when she comes hither sometimes.... Having seen as much as I desir'd, I stay'd not to dine, but return'd to Mangalor; there being always a passage-boat ready to carry people backwards and forwards....

[152] December the fourth: Before day-light I took boat at Mangalor.... at length about evening we arriv'd at Manel, so they call the place where the Queen of Olaza now resides, which is only a Street of a few Cottages or Sheds rather than Houses; but the country is open, fair and fruitful, inhabited by abundance of little Houses and Cottages here and there of husband-men, besides those united to the great street called the Bazar, or Market; all which are comprehended under the name of Manel, which lies on the left side of the River as you go against the stream.

Having landed, and going towards the Bazar to get a lodging in some House, we beheld the Queen coming alone in the same way [=direction] without any other Woman, on foot, accompany'd only with four or five foot-soldiers before, all which were quite naked after their manner, saving that they had a cloth over their shame, and another like a sheet worn cross the shoulders like a belt; each of them had a sword in his hand, or at most a sword and buckler; there were also as many behind her of the same sort, one of which carry'd over her a very ordinary Umbrella made [153] of palm-leaves.

Her complexion was as black as that of a natural Aethiopian; she was corpulent and gross, but not heavy, for she seem'd to walk nimbly enough; her Age may be about forty years, although the Portugals had describ'd her to me much elder. She was cloth'd, or rather girded at the waist, with a plain piece of thick white cotton, and bare-foot, which is the custom of the Indian Gentile Women, both high and low, in the house and abroad; and of Men too, the most [aristocratic?] and the most ordinary go unshod; some of the more grave wear sandals or slippers, very few use whole shoes covering all the foot. From the waist upwards the Queen was naked, saving that she had a cloth tied round about her Head, and hanging a little down upon her breast and shoulders. In brief, her aspect and habit represented rather a dirty Kitchen-wench or Laundress, than a delicate and noble Queen; whereupon, I said within my self, Behold by whom are routed in India the Armies of the King of Spain, which [=who] in Europe is so great a matter!

Yet the Queen shew'd her quality much more in speaking than by her presence; for her voice was very graceful in respect of her person, and she spoke like a prudent and judicious Woman. They had told me that she had no teeth, and therefore was wont to go with half her Face cover'd; yet I could not discover any such defect in her, either by my Eye or by my Ear; and, I rather believe, that this covering the Mouth, or half the Face, as she sometimes doth, is agreeable to the modest custom which I know to be common to almost all Women in the East. I will not omit, that though she were so corpulent as I have mention'd, yet she seems not deform'd, but I imagine she was handsome in her Youth; and indeed, the report is, that she hath been a brave Lady, though rather of a rough than a delicate handsomeness.

As soon as we saw her coming, we stood still, lay'd down our baggage upon the ground, and went on one side to leave her the way to pass. Which she taking notice of, and of my strange habit [=attire], presently ask'd, Whether there was any among us that could speak the Language? Whereupon my Brachman Narsu step'd forth and answer'd, Yes; and I, after I had saluted her according to our manner, went near to speak to her, she standing still in the way with all her people to give us Audience.

She ask'd who I was (being already inform'd, as one of her soldiers told me, by a Portugal who was come about his businesses before me from Mangalor to Manel, that I was come thither to see her); I caused my Interpreter to tell her, that I was a Gentleman of the West, who came from very far Countries; and because other Europeans than Portugals were not usually seen in her Dominions, I caus'd her to be told, that I was not a Portugal but a Roman, specifying too that I was not of the Turks of Constantinople, who in all the East are style'd and known by the name of Rumi; but a Christian of Rome, where is the See of the Pope who is the Head of the Christians. That it was almost ten years since my [154] first coming from home and wandring about the world, having seen divers [=various] Countries and Courts of great Princes; and that being mov'd by the fame of her worth, which had long ago arriv'd at my Ears, I was come into this place purposely to see her, and offer her my service.

She ask'd, What Countries and Courts of Princes I had seen? I gave her a brief account of all; and she hearing the Great Turk, the Persian, the Moghol, and Venk-tapa Naieka nam'd, ask'd, What then I came to see in these Woods of hers? Intimating that her State was not worth seeing, after so many other great things as I said I had seen. I reply'd to her, that it was enough for me to see her Person, which I knew to be of great worth; for which purpose alone I had taken the pains to come thither, and accounted the time very well imploy'd.

After some courteous words of thanks, she ask'd me, If any sickness or other disaster had happened to me in so remote and strange Countries, how I could have done being alone, without any to take care of me? (a tender Affection, and incident to the compassionate nature of Women). I answer'd, that in every place I went into, I had God with me, and that I trusted in him.

She ask'd me, Whether I left my Country upon any disgust, the death of any kindred or beloved person, and therefore wander'd so about the world (for in India and all the East some are wont to do so upon discontents either of Love, or for the death of some dear persons, or for other unfortunate accidents; and if Gentiles, they become Gioghies [='jogis', or yogis]; if Mahometans, Dervishes and Abdalis; all which are a sort of vagabonds, or despisers of the world, going almost naked, only with a skin upon their shoulders, and a staff in their Hands, through divers Countries, like our Pilgrims; living upon alms, little caring what befalls them, and leading a life suitable to the bad disposition of their hearts).

I conceal'd my first misadventures [of an unhappy love affair in Rome], and told the Queen that I left not my Country upon any such cause, but only out of a desire to see divers Countries and customs, and to learn many things, which are learnt by travelling the World; men who had seen and convers'd with many several Nations, being much esteem'd in our parts: That indeed for some time since, upon the death of my Wife, whom I lov'd much, though I were not in habit [=attire], yet in mind I was more than a Gioghi, and little car'd what could betide me in the World.

She ask'd me, What my design was now, and whither I directed my way? I answer'd, that I thought of returning to my Country, if it should please God to give me life to arrive there. Many other questions she ask'd, which I do not now remember, talking with me standing a good while; to all which, I answer'd the best I could: At length she bid me go and lodge in some house, and afterwards she would talk with me again at more convenience.

Whereupon I took my leave, and she proceeded on her way, and, as I was afterwards told, she went about a mile off to see a work which she had in hand of certain Trenches to convey water [155] to certain places, whereby to improve them.

I spoke to the Queen with my head uncover'd all the while; which courtesy, it being my custom to use to all Ladies my equals, only upon the account of being such, I thought ought much rather to be us'd to this who was a Queen, and in her own Dominion, when I was come to visit and to do her Honour.

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